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Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon January 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
What made Tab Hunter's career so unusual was his dual role as one of the final contractees to Hollywood' studio system (at Universal) and his generally adventurous own nature, so he ventured rather farther afield than, say, his contemporary Robert Wagner. Thus he appeared in the very last films of a number of ancient Hollywood greats, and yet on the other hand he forecasted, as did his sometime boyfriend Anthony Perkins, the beginnings of the "New American Cinema" of the 1970s. Hunter points this out himself in a typically insightful passage: "I was on the set for the last roars of so many old lions-[Raoul] Walsh, {William] Wellman, [Stuart] Heisler, [Jacques] Tourneur-as well as for the first forays of young turks who'd inspire a whole new style of filmmaking: Frankenheimer, Lumet, Penn. My career fell smack in the middle of the changing of the guard."

His book is worth reading just for the insight into the methods of Luchino Visconti, for whom he seems to have had a serious penchant. Tab denies that he ever lay down on Henry Willson's casting couch, but how about Visconti's casting gondola? He draws the veil discreetly over these disappointments, but it's pretty clear that the up and coming (and complaisant) Helmut Berger stole some of Tab's thunder in a pinch. It brings us to the startling alternative universe in which Tab Hunter, not Berger, starred in such Visconti titles as THE DAMNED, LUDWIG, and CONVERSATION PIECE. Could have been!

Hunter seems like a nice guy, and his performances in vehicles as disparate as DAMN YANKEES, TRACK OF THE CAT and POLYESTER show he had not only range but a quiet intensity that occasionally blazed into incandescence. Writer Eddie Muller brings Hunter's life into occasional coherence, but one comes away thinking that they might have brought their subject, Hunter's contested star status in a time of state-mandated homophobia, into a clearer light. Basically Tab is saying, "I was always out. It was Tony who was in the closet." The great thing about their book is the new look at some of the great legends with whom Tab worked, including a gallant salute to the amazing, unforgettable screen beauty Linda Darnell, who co-starred with him early in his career and gave him the confidence to fill up the screen.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Tab Hunter was a pretty boy, athletic and blond, who made a name for himself on the big screen despite the nagging suspicion (his) that he really couldn't act. In the 1950s movies were a form of entertainment that was growing like a mutant life form, and there was a place for Tab (born Art Gelien) as a teen idol.

Dating starlets went with the idol's territory, and Tab didn't mind. He was an outlaw in his personal life but extremely discreet, and only rarely got caught in scandal. When he did, Confidential Magazine was always there. In this detailed autobiography, Tab has trumped the scandal sheets by creating his own story. As he puts it, "Better to get it from the horse's mouth, I decided, and not from some horse's ass."

Snapped up as a beach boy to star with Linda Darnell in Island of Desire, the kid formerly known as Art Gelien, son of an immigrant single mom who was noted for her many absences from the childhood home, became an instant heartthrob --- "The Squeal Appeal Fella" --- among the bobby-sox and penny loafer set. And that was just the girls.

In adolescence Art had been drawn to several clandestine homosexual encounters. A practicing Catholic, the boy tried to pour out his guilt in the confessional but was so scathingly condemned by the priest that he was forced to realize that God indeed had given him free will --- "I was also learning, the hard way, the price you paid for using it."

Then followed many frenetic years in which the persona of Tab Hunter rode the high waves of popularity, if not outright stardom, with macho roles in Westerns and war flicks playing alongside such masculine icons as Robert Mitchum and Big Guy John Wayne. He was constantly photographed with new cars and new starlets, some of whom were real friends, like Natalie Wood, Lori Nelson, and the only candidate for possible marriage, the sophisticated French doyenne Etchika Choureau. Etchika won the primaries but lost the election. While Tab Hunter kept fans speculating about which girlfriend would win his heart, Art Gelien remained closeted in the secret gay underworld.

In the middle years, when the teen bloom was off the rose, Tab had some minor successes, lauded by Tennessee Williams for his stage role in "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore" with the aging Tallulah Bankhead. He had small roles in good movies like The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, and did a stint on television in "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." In private he was enjoying the grown-up life of a gay man, ranging from both coasts of the U.S. to the cool haunts of Europe.

Though it's a big ho-hum these days, it must be recalled that in the mid-twentieth century, even the tabloids had no euphemisms for homosexuality, and no polite person spoke of it. The artistic crowd in Hollywood accepted the fact that many creative people were of the same-gender persuasion, and there let matters rest. The loss of Rock Hudson --- a homme fatal whose stardom was of the same vintage as Tab's --- to AIDS made the subject a talking point. The chat was hardly civil, however, with many in the media choosing to style AIDS as "God's vengeance on homosexuals." Later, Anthony Perkins, by then apparently happily married, also succumbed to AIDS. He and Tab had been lovers years before.

The public acknowledgement of the fact that some men prefer other men allowed Tab, in his mature years, to spoof himself and come swishing out of the closet with such innovative and offbeat hits as Polyester and Lust in the Dust, both co-starring the inimitable drag darling Divine. While it can be argued that these cult faves did nothing to make his reputation, it can also be said that his reputation was as made, and as sullied, as it would ever be. Tab by this time was a seasoned star, openly outed, with little left to prove.

Art Gelien comes through the pages of this book about his alter-ego Tab as blessed with a hefty dose of optimism and tolerance that stood him good stead. He happened into his acting career without any premeditation and spent time catching up, trying to learn the craft. He was proud of his good reviews, laughed off the bad ones, and kept on pushing for roles that would highlight his strengths and pay the bills. He's a fascinating subject for a book in which he claims, on balance, to be "happy to be forgotten."

--- Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2008
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I am going to do this review on a personal level, instead of going into the content of the book. Why? Because after you read this book, you will see that Tab is made from a different mold than most people who have made it in Hollywood. He is more of an average person than the movie star so many have grown to enjoy. I am lucky to say...Tab Hunter is an amazing guy and friend. My mother and Tab became friends a few years back and I have gotten to know and love him through the eyes of my mom, who has since passed. And during that emotional time for me when mom passed, Tab, as busy as he is, made sure I received a phone call telling me how special mom was and how he valued her friendship. Tab truly is charming, kind and sincere. So it was not a surprise to me that his book would be anything but absolutely wonderful. From the moment you pick up this book, you feel as though you are there...experiencing this incredible life, through Tab's eyes. It will touch you in many ways. It is true and raw. The style in which Tab tells his life story allows the reader to feel the uninhibited emotions, joys and turmoils of his career. The pictures are subperb. I won't go into details of the book. That would spoil it for the one's who have not taken the opportunity to experience this fabulous read.
Once you have read this book, you will become to know and love Tab. I'm thankful to know, personally, what an amazing friend and man he truly is. So don't delay. You must add this to your collection of favorites today!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
I knew little about Tab Hunter before reading this book and couldn't name one Tab Hunter movie, but I thoroughly enjoyed this engaging, informative, and fascinating story. Every page has insights into the movie business, movie history, and Hollywood society. Hunter's professional history spans the full range of a working actor's career, from struggling between parts to becoming a movie superstar during the last days of the studio contract system, to being a huge pop star, to working in television, Broadway, stock, dinner theater, and even producing.

Hunter's personal story is equally compelling, from his difficult childhood to becoming an internationally known horseman, his European jetsetting period (Visconti, Nureyev, Prince Michael of Greece, the Queen of Belgium, etc., etc.), and the legendary people in his circle of friends. This book is an important historical record, a fascinating inside look at show business, and a great read. You'll thoroughly enjoy it.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In 1956, 25-year-old teen idol, sex symbol, recording and movie star Tab Hunter received 62,000 valentines from young women worldwide.

That happened, in spite of the fact that in 1955, Confidential magazine had published an article intimating that this teen idol was [...]! His hit record, "Young Love," also reached Top 10 after more smear articles hit the press.

As a new actor, his ability wasn't that polished, but his fans, swooning young women, didn't care. They loved him because he was gorgeous and charming--and appealed to their dreams of a young man!

This was the 1950s, McCarthy witch-hunting era. Homosexuals did everything to quietly live their personal life out of the spotlight to maintain and balance their career. This was not the same as the staged movie-star (man/woman) dating life the fan magazines showed.

Tab Hunter was among many, often very handsome men, including Rock Hudson, in the stable of one agent.

Tab Hunter tells his story in such an honest and upfront way you will be drawn into his personal life that includes his hard-working mother, absent father, and older married brother. And, whenever he mentions his "relationships," he gives no details.

The entertainment industry from 1950 to present day is detailed in ways that will especially interest someone who remembers those stars when young and first popular. However anyone who likes a good story well told will also appreciate Hunter's life story.

Hunter writes extensively of the upside of being an overnight celebrity--to the downside: scandals, lies, being take advantage of, always on guard for personal life, and later traveling almost all year long to do small-venue dinner theatre. Makes you wonder why anyone would want to be an entertainer.

The stories are wonderful--and the photos are trip down memory lane--of Hunter in movies with famous actors and actresses (many now gone), and with friends such as Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, Natalie Wood, Vincent Price (from Missouri), Fred Astaire, Debbie Reynolds, Tony Perkins, Connie Stevens, Tony Perkins, Divine, and many more.

Armchair Interviews says: Hunter, born 1931, was an actor, stage actor, horse lover/breeder/showman, business man, doting son and friend to many. In Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star, he tells it all to adoring fans or others who will come to admire him. Plan on long reading sessions as it is hard to stop reading.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have had the pleasure and honor of knowing Tab Hunter for almost fifteen years, and have been looking forward to seeing his story in print. He has produced a compassionate, compelling look into what it meant to be a star created and manipulated under the old Hollywood studio system. Mr. Hunter takes us through his whirlwind rise to stardom, and also lets the reader see how a product of Hollywood could be heavily promoted one day, and just as easily pushed aside the next. His resilience in difficult times under often stressful circumstances is a tribute to his determination and his faith.

What a reader senses in every page of the book is how genuine Mr. Hunter is, unaffected by Hollywood as anyone can be in his personal worldview. He is a dignified, charming man who is grateful for the good fortune God and life have sent his way, despite enduring some truly trying experiences. His story is engaging, funny, informative, sometimes heartbreaking, and compulsively readable. I'm glad he put it onto the page. Bravo, Tab!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
In this book "Tab Hunter" comes off a quite a nice guy with principles and scruples--what a concept, especially in Hollywood.

The book is long and detailed but is filled with interesting tid-bits about many big and little show business people. He is honest and forthcoming about his personal struggles with being gay in a straight world, but that is not what this book is really about. It is about a GREAT looking boy/man and his trip through life who just happened to be "discovered" and went on to a life that was envied by many and understood by few.

In detail we read about his non-existent father, his emotionally distant but loving mother, his intelligent and brave brother, his pals and acquaintances famous and not famous. After big stardom waned he took just about any job to make a living for himself. His love of horses and figure skating--who knew!!

I recommend this book if you like him, his movies, horses, old hollywood or if you are in the mood for a really minutely detailed account of an interesting person written well.

I am impressed. He is a really nice guy!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This books is an excellent read. Not overly familiar with the subject or his career, I still greatly enjoyed reading about Tab Hunter's varied experiences in the last years of the dying Hollywood studio system. Hunter got a lot of breaks because he was good looking, then experienced hard times as he aged out of the pretty-boy phase of his career. His persistence in the face of this drastic fall from grace is impressive - he certainly served his time in the dinner theater circuit. His willingness to take chances and to live his life his way without advertising his personal beliefs is admirable. Also nice was his discussion of the loves of his life, male and female, without coming across as a kiss-and-tell kind of guy. Best part, the sense of humor behind the narrative makes even the negative events interesting to read about. I will definately order some of his movies he describes in the book as I feel he gives a fair assessment of their quality.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In this fascinating and delightful tell-something teen-idol turned camp icon Tab Hunter finally acknowledges he is gay ("not that there's anything wrong with that!"), but the real surprise is he is unabashedly a practicing Catholic ("not that there's anything wrong with that!") and a conservative one at that, bordering on Feneeyite ("not that there's anything wrong with that!"). Like all the best memoirs, this one shocks, but in a way you did not expect.

Highlights include wonderful and curious anecdotes on life behind the camera of small and big name stars with whom Hunter either worked or maintained life-long friendships. There is dirt aplenty, but those looking for Divine/Waters inspired witch-Goddess vengeance of the catty diva sort will be disappointed. Hunter is more fair and forgiving than sharpening his nails for a night-of-the-long knives.

John Waters fans will naturally wish for more substance in these sections, but Hunter's tone is really one of treating his work with Waters as a chapter, albeit a remarkable one, in his career. A career which has taken odd turns and gyrations for which Hollywood Babylon is famous, and Hunter an excellent witness and scribe. A wide audience will enjoy this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As movie stars' autobiographies go, this is one of the best I've ever read. Tab (a/k/a Art Gelien) is completely charming and open about his life, but what makes it truly wonderful is his guileless, disingenuous approach to himself. He frequently refers to himself in the third person because he's never truly believed that he IS that person. He makes me wish I had the chance to meet him. As a gay man myself, born about five years after him, I can relate to the obstacles he faced back in the uptight 1950s. Highly recommended.
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